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Santana - Abraxas CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.23 | 564 ratings

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3 stars Yes, I can appreciate the musicianship here, and yes, it is an appealingly smooth blend of jazz and rock, but this album - unlike albums such as 'Caravanserai' - does not work for me.

'Abraxas' did sound revolutionary in 1970, but it as not dated well. A host of imitators swamped the charts with latin-tinged jazz numbers from the mid-1960s onwards - not least the execrable JAMES LAST - and this has detracted from the uniqueness of SANTANA's early sound. Again, I emphasise that this is fine fare, but jazz-rock fusion needs something more than slow to mid-paced jams to rate highly, especially on a progressive rock site. 'Incident at Neshabur' rocks for a few moments, and of course the ubiquitous 'Black Magic Woman' is worth a listen if you haven't heard it a hundred times already. 'Oye Como Va' is the highlight for me, along with the wonderful Hammond organ in 'Se A Cabo'.

This album is not remotely progressive, in my view - again, unlike 'Caravanserai' and the albums to follow. It's a straight jazz-rocker with no linking themes, either musically or lyrically. Instrumental virtuosity alone doesn't qualify this as prog. From SANTANA's fourth album right through the 70s the band became progressively more proggy. Certainly there's nothing here remotely resembling the power, complexity and commitment of THE MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, for example.

In the end, my complaint about this music is it has been 'whitened' for a middle-class US audience. The black jazz on which this is based is a lot less palatable to white ears, but it's a great deal more interesting. Again, SANTANA allowed some of those sounds into their music later in their career. My advice is to give this a listen for old times' sake, then go try something from 1972 onwards.

russellk | 3/5 |


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